Israel, Cyprus, and a Personal Journey Through the Crusades

Nathaniel W Horadam

My name is Nathaniel Horadam – Native Texan, Vandy alum, former Accenture management consultant, shameless Atlanta booster, and current transportation planning graduate student at Georgia Tech.

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14 Responses

  1. Maribou says:

    Thank you, Nathaniel, for sharing this piece. I’ve always had a good idea of the Crusades within Europe, less of one for the geography involved in the Middle East.

    This is my “today I learned” for today. Well, for the day I proofed it, technically, but you know what I mean 🙂Report

  2. Marchmaine says:

    Enjoyed the travelogue and commentary. I knew you were going to start with Hattin right from the beginning! Well done.

    I recommend Riley-Smith over Runciman for the Crusades and even JJNorwich over Runciman for matters Byzantine as well… not much of a Runciman fan myself.

    RCSmail for military history is a great primer too.

    And I would have killed for this 30-years ago… but here’s a compiled list of 30+ scholars on current (2017) crusade bibliography recommendations… some even with commentary. The internet must spoil today’s graduate students. In my day you had to walk to each professor’s house with a pad and a pen…

    edit: ooops forgot the list:

    • To be honest I actually haven’t read Riley-Smith yet. He’s obviously on my list though…as is Sumption for the Albigensian Crusade.

      Started with Mayer all those years ago, and have read a lot of Phillips. Some other lesser-known authors thrown in there too. Among my literary goals for this year was to get through Runciman, but thus far have only finished the first of his three volumes.Report

    • PD Shaw in reply to Marchmaine says:

      It looks like the only book I’ve read on that list is Tyerman’s God’s War, which pretty much satiated by interest in the area, both because it seems rather comprehensive and because it was quite the slog at times.Report

    • J_A in reply to Marchmaine says:

      I recommend Riley-Smith over Runciman for the Crusades and even JJNorwich over Runciman for matters Byzantine as well…

      I second the J J Norwich recommendation on matter Byzantine, and I cannot praise enough Norwich’s comprehensive -and easy to read- History of Venice.

      But Runciman’s story of the Sicilian Vespers ( is really entertaining. He does bring all the characters to life so it reads more like romance than dry history.Report

  3. atomickristin says:

    Really cool piece! I’d love to see more like this!Report

  4. LeeEsq says:

    Funnily enough, I’m watching a BBC documentary on the Crusades online. The current big debate with the Crusades is whether it should be interpreted as an early form of European imperialism. This argument was advanced ironically enough by an Israeli Jewish historian Joshua Prawer in his book, The Crusaders’ Kingdom: European Colonialism in the Middle Ages, or whether as a genuinely religious war launched to regain the Holy Land from the Infidels. I lean more towards the latter because I can’t stand presentism.Report

    • Like most religious wars, each of these campaigns eventually morphed into something entirely different. Though motivations for individual princes, knights and soldiers may have varied, the First Crusade was very clearly a religious campaign. Once the states were established, new fiefdoms created, etc., then you started to see waves of European adventurers, both landed and non-landed, seeking fortune on the frontier.

      That said, during the First Crusade, every major city captured triggered awful infighting between camps of the leading princes, over which would get to keep the city for himself. But this wasn’t imperialism/colonialism in the early modern or modern sense.Report

  5. J_A says:

    Muslim sources covering the Crusades exist, but are largely absent from modern academic curricula save courses specifically addressing them.

    I cannot recommend enough Amin Maalouf’s book “The Crusades through Arab eyes”. Written in French in 1983 (Les Croisades vues par les Arabes), the book was published in English in 1984, and still remains in print (.

    As the name suggests, the book is a narrative retelling of primary sources drawn from various Arab chronicles that seeks to provide an Arab perspective on the Crusades, and especially regarding the Crusaders – the Franks (Franj), as the Arabs called them – who are considered cruel, savage, ignorant and culturally backward.

    From the first invasion in the eleventh century through till the general collapse of the Crusades in the thirteenth century, the book constructs a narrative that is the reverse of that common in the Western world, describing the main facts as bellicose and displaying situations of a quaint historic setting where Western Christians are viewed as “barbarians”, unaware of the most elementary rules of honor, dignity and social ethics.

    It should be mandatory reading for all those interested in the Crusades, as well as for those that understand that non-Westerners do have their own ideas and points of view.

    Or perhaps the book should be read by those that do are not aware of that 🙂Report

  6. Burt Likko says:

    I wonder how heavily you felt the presence of the ghosts of the warriors, merchants, clerics, and pilgrims from the past wandering through these sites. What has changed since they walked the earth — and more amazing, what has remained the same!

    Like you, I often find myself drawn to lesser-traveled sites while on holiday, and take pleasure in understanding the significance of that which is often overlooked by most others. I am happy of your experiences and delighted that you’ve chosen to share them with us. Thank you.Report

  7. Pinky says:

    Really good article. Really interesting. I felt guilty for not commenting, but I can’t think of anything insightful to say.Report

  8. Chip Daniels says:

    Since Burt’s essay is still in my mind, I compare my current ambivalence about religion to the mindset of the various peoples who were involved in the Crusades.

    I have to wonder- what made them feel the power of it so deeply?
    Some of it may have been mercenary or craven power struggles, which are understandable enough, but much of it clearly was not.

    What was it they felt, I wonder, that made it so urgent and worth such passion?

    Part of me wants to envy those who feel so deeply, but another part of me recoils from how easily that slides into madness.Report

  9. J_A says:

    What was it they felt, I wonder, that made it so urgent and worth such passion?

    From what I’ve been able to understand, a very large part of it was driven by the desire of younger siblings to carve new fiefdoms in what they called Outremer . The very same drive had resulted, 100 years before, in the Norman conquest of Sicily (and the Norman conquest of England).

    If you take a close look, there’s a significant percentage of Normans among the Crusaders leaders (particularly the early crusades, where the conquests took place). And of course, Normans were originally Vikings that settled in Northwestern France.Report

  10. Kolohe says:

    Great stuff. This is an area of history I’m largely unfamiliar with, and I imagine many are, as the American public school curriculum reduces the Crusades to ‘Holy Wars that Europe lost but got a taste for spice that spurred the Age of Discovery’Report